Arizona law requires the Court to “equitably” or fairly divide assets and debts in a divorce case. In general terms, this results in an equal division of the assets and debts, but in certain circumstances equitable is not necessarily equal.
For whatever reason, I have found over the years that assets are easier to divide then debts. Some of my most difficult cases have been divorcing parties who have significant debts and no assets.
The addition of debts bring in complicated issues including the possibility that one or both parties will file for bankruptcy and eliminate the debt obligation. This should be carefully discussed with an attorney knowledgeable about family law as well as bankruptcy issues.
In my divorce cases, I encourage my client’s to obtain their credit report, and often I will assist my client’s in getting a credit report of both parties in the case. This allows me and my clients to discuss the known debts, and often to discover debts that they did not know existed.
While it is not always good news to find out your soon-to-be ex-spouse had several credit cards that you may now be responsible for under Arizona’s community property laws, knowing of these debts as you negotiate or take your case to trial allows you and your attorney to seek appropriate and equitable (fair) relief including the allocation of these debts.